By Janet Wight
Purrniture, a local maker and retailer of durable cat furniture near south St. Anthony Park, is eyeing expanding its production and showroom by later this year.
Owner Darryl Michaelson said he plans to enlarge his current manufacturing operations by either leasing an additional 2,000 square feet of space in his existing building at 2242 University Ave. or by finding that extra space in a nearby facility. The additional production space would allow him to produce an expanded line of cat furniture products, he said.
Also, Michaelson said he may partner with a regional furniture store to offer Purrniture cat furniture alongside consumer furniture.
Michaelson’s plans reflect the solid health of Purrniture, whose well-stocked showroom is filled with a variety of furniture and accessories along with a selection of catnip and toys.
Currently, Purrniture offers 22 designs of sturdy cat furniture, all handcrafted by Michaelson and his seven part-time employees. These products may be purchased at the showroom or by placing an order on the Purrniture website.
Michaelson also offers his furniture at the Saintly City Cat Show held in conjunction with the St. Paul Winter Carnival each January.
Michaelson began making cat furniture from repurposed wood in June 1990. He figured everyone needed a hobby and he enjoyed being creative.
At that time, Michaelson was a full-time manager for Domino’s Pizza, but he realized that his unique cat products might be marketable. He made a flyer advertising his custom-made cat furniture and posted it in local veterinary clinics.
In June 1991, after devoting a full year to his new hobby, Michaelson succeeded in gaining space at the then-new Pet Center exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair to sell his cat furniture products. There has been a Purrniture booth at every State Fair ever since.
So, what is special about Michaelson’s cat furniture? Purrniture’s environmentally friendly furniture is made from scrounged and repurposed materials whenever possible. Initially, wood spools from electrical companies, tubes from paper companies and salvaged wood were available to meet all of Michaelson’s needs, he said.
Recycled wood spools are still readily available. But Michaelson now has to supplement the quantity of scrounged tubes and 4x4s with new materials since he can no longer find enough of these items to keep up with full production needs. Carpet is sourced from remnants that are obtained from a company in Golden Valley.
“Because we use plywood, ours is stronger and heavier. It is the jungle gym that cats are looking for,” Michaelson added.
Today, Purrniture sells about 2,000 pieces of cat furniture annually with prices ranging from $30 to $600 per item sold. Michaelson relies primarily on sales sparked by Google advertising, which garners thousands of views each month, he said.
Delivery of the cat furniture in the Twin Cities metro is available for $50.
Purrniture’s heaviest sales come during the holiday season, tax time and the Minnesota State Fair, Michaelson said. The company also saw a slight bump in sales during the pandemic, but that also could have been spurred by a newly completed website and recently placed Google advertising, he explained.
Meanwhile, Purrniture’s recent business challenges include securing readily available lumber and dealing with price increases, some which came in September. In previous years, Michaelson said he could place an order for lumber and pick it up the next day. Now, he may have to wait up to three months.
Janet Wight lives in the Como neighborhood and is a regular freelance writer for the Bugle.